The Honorable William K. Sessions III sentenced Brian Folks, 45, to twenty-two years and six months in prison today, followed by ten years of supervision upon release. A federal jury in Burlington, Vermont, previously found Folks guilty of 13 federal felonies after a nearly three-week trial back in May 2019. Evidence presented at trial showed that Folks ran an extensive and violent sex and drug trafficking operation that sold heroin and cocaine base throughout the greater Burlington area and forced young, drug-addicted women to prostitute. Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney Christina E. Nolan for the District of Vermont, and DEA Special Agent in Charge-Boston Brian D. Boyle announced the sentence.
In May 2019, a federal jury convicted Folks of five counts of sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion, one count of sex trafficking of a minor, one count of operating an unlawful prostitution business enterprise, four counts of distributing heroin, one count of possessing heroin and cocaine base with the intent to distribute, and one count of conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine base. Following trial, the Court dismissed one of two counts of sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion with respect to one victim. When imposing the sentence, Judge Sessions indicated that he would later determine the amount of restitution Folks owes the victims of the crimes.
U.S. Attorney Christina E. Nolan stated: “This significant term of imprisonment reflects the inhumanity with which Folks treated his victims and the depravity of his conduct. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to work alongside our community partners and law enforcement agencies to identify victims of human trafficking, get them support, and bring serious consequences to those who abuse them mentally and physically. We in Vermont law enforcement simply won’t tolerate this conduct.”
“This defendant used intimidation, humiliation, degrading acts, and violence to force young women suffering from opioid addictions to perform commercial sex acts,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “His barbaric bullying caused them immeasurable harm, and he helped destroy people and their families by illegally dealing opioid drugs. Today’s sentence will help the victims in the healing process and show that depraved conduct, like this defendant’s, will not be tolerated. The Department of Justice will continue its vigorous efforts to hold human traffickers accountable, bring justice to their victims, and prevent them from harming others.”
“As we all know, drug trafficking in our communities, along with the gun and physical violence that often accompanies it, is a serious threat to our families and our communities,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Brian D. Boyle. “These crimes rob the neighbors of safety and hold law abiding citizens of Vermont hostage to drug fueled lawlessness. Today’s sentence not only holds Mr. Folks accountable for his crimes but serves as a warning that DEA and its local, state and federal law enforcement partners will do everything in our power to bring to justice anyone who engages in these crimes.”
Evidence presented at trial, including the testimony of four victims, established that defendant Brian Folks operated two, intertwined criminal operations between June 2012 and March 2016. One operation sold heroin and cocaine base throughout the greater Burlington area. The other forced young, drug-addicted women to prostitute. The defendant used his access to drugs to target and recruit young, vulnerable women. After providing them with drugs, he manipulated their addictions as part of his coercive scheme to prostitute them. He also often engaged in extreme acts of humiliation and degradation to assert his power and control over the victims. He forced the victims to perform commercial sex acts for his profit or face serious consequences. This included beating them, often in front of other victims, creating a climate of fear and intimidation, and he sexually assaulted them as well. He withheld heroin from the victims, causing them to suffer painful physical and mental withdrawal symptoms, until they saw commercial sex clients. He also videotaped them performing explicit and humiliating sex acts on him, with him, and for him, and threatened to expose those videos to the public. Among the defendant’s victims was a 17-year-old, who also suffered from heroin addiction. The defendant recruited her to prostitute, photographed her, and advertised her online for prostitution.
This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Agency’s New England Division, with assistance from the Burlington, Winooski, and Essex, Vermont, Police Departments and the FBI. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Gilman for the District of Vermont and Special Litigation Counsel Matthew Grady for the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit. Former Assistant U.S. Attorney William Darrow for the District of Vermont and former Trial Attorney Emily Savner for the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section also prosecuted the case.